CROSS-COUNTRY: Junior runners compete at state meet

Two Eagles represented Brown County on the state stage as they raced for the finish line this weekend in the Indiana High School Athletic Association cross-country state meet.

Cross-country runners Chase Austin and Hadley Gradolf, both juniors, advanced to the IHSAA state meet at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course in Terre Haute Oct. 30 after successful runs in the IHSAA semistate Oct. 23 at Eagle Park.

Gradolf earned All-State recognition after finishing in the top 25 at the state meet.

This was Gradolf’s third consecutive time running in a championship. She had the best championship finish of her career, said Assistant Coach Kirk Wrightsman.

Gradolf finished 23rd in a time of 19:19 while “running a strategically sound race,” Wrightsman said.

This was the first time in school history, the Eagles had the individual IHSAA sectional champion in both the girls and the boys races.

Over in the boys race, Wrightsman said that Austin “used a strong start to put himself in good position” during his first championship appearance.

Austin moved through the field and placed 68th in a time of 16:39. Wrightsman said both runners finished their cross-country seasons with the “best performances of their careers.”

“Hadley and Chase both took it to another level this season. They both bring a very unselfish, team-first approach and they have proven that individually they can contend with the best in the state. As their year went on, they both continued to improve and their fitness peaked at the right time,” he said.

“Their track seasons and summer training will be pivotal in setting them up for their senior cross-country seasons. If they make the progress they made this year, next fall is going to be very exciting.”

Coach Rob Abraham said that both Austin and Gradolf had a great day at the state meet.

“Hadley took advantage of being at the state meet for the third time in a row with a stellar performance. She started out in around 40th place and moved up to her finishing place of 23rd. It was an amazing race to watch and she made the moves in the race that she had to make,” he said of Gradolf’s All-State performance.

“Her All-State performance is the best placing for a 5K race. I can’t wait to see what is in store for her next year. If she continues to improve, a state medal and a selection on the All-Star team will be in her future.”

Abraham said that Austin “battled his way to a 68th place finish” at the state meet.

“Chase had a great season and has moved up to be one of the best runners in the state. I look for Chase to have a great track season and return as an all-state performer,” he said.

At the semistate meet Austin finished 17th with a time of 15:53, the second fastest time in school history, while Hadley finished 13th with a time of 18:48.

The pair also had strong runs in the IHSAA regional in Columbus where Gradolf finished fourth and Austin took sixth, qualifying them for the IHSAA semistate in late October at Eagle Park.